Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

Urbania, Italy, my current home away from home
(almost 5,000 miles from home and seven hours ahead of CDT)
I have good news and bad news.  Which should I share first?

I can't hear you.  I don't know if it's the distance or the time difference, but you're doing a lousy job of making your wishes heard.

Seriously, you need to learn to speak up.  I will, however, persevere.

Let's go with the good news.  
I read a book. (Yes!) 
It rocked.  (Yes! Yes!) 
It's part of a new series. (Yes! Yes! Yes!)

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire is the first of the InCryptid series.  Verity Price, of those Prices, is living in Manhattan trying to balance her love for competitive ballroom dance and her family's vocation.  The Prices, you see, are dedicated to studying and preserving cryptids (creatures not proven to exist) that can peaceably co-exist with humans.  Other cryptids don't exactly DO peaceable, so the Prices are prepared to rehabilitate or extinguish the mean and nasty things that go bump in the night.  Very's parents and siblings are dedicated to the family mission, but she's torn between dance and duty.

In addition to the Prices who keep order with the cryptid community, the Order of St. George also has own opinion about how to deal with the atypical creatures.  The Order's way is a little harsh, so when Very realized that young, unmarried cryptids are disappearing from Manhattan AND that someone from the Order is in town, she's a bit alarmed and suspicious.
An excellent choice for DWTS fans

I won't give away any of the good stuff, but I will say that Very does get to the truth of the matter,  that the guy from the Order is a hottie and that Very has her hands full.

This was a fun book with free running (a type of parkour), ballroom dance, romance, boogie men, dragons, and ghouls.  I highly recommend it for fans of urban fantasy AND fans of "Dancing with the Stars".

But there's still some bad news.  
While this is part of a new series, it's currently a stand alone. (No!) 
The second book isn't tentatively scheduled to be released before March 2013.  (No! No!)
So if you finish the first and are dying to read the second, you're in for a wait. (No! No! No!)
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Dog's Purpose - A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron

Not Sadie. 
"So you got a dog, huh?  You know she's gonna break your heart when she dies."  Those were the words spoken to me by my father when he met our dog Sadie, for the first time. Way to spoil my moment, dad.  How could he say that about such an adorable puppy?  I was so enamored with Sadie that I dedicated an entire scrapbook album to her.  I thought I had never seen anything as funny as when she would bark at leaves that blew past her.  I remember watching Joshua trying to get her leashed trained and laughing hysterically.  Today, Sadie is approaching 14 years-old, hard of hearing and becoming more and more like an house guest that has overstayed her welcome.  We love her, but her health is steadily declining and there have been times recently when I have questioned her purpose after having been with us for so long.  And then I read this book.

A Dog's Purpose spent 49 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.  That is pretty impressive seeing that it is written from the perspective of the dog and like the title says, is a novel "for humans."  This is just not the sort of book I think of when I think of bestseller material. But I think what made it bestseller material was the fact that it WAS written from a dog's perspective. Cameron tells the story as Baily, a homeless mutt of a dog that dies tragically only to be reborn as a energetic golden-retriever.  As a retriever, Bailey is adopted by Ethan, an 8-year-old boy.  The two are inseparable and we get a front seat to all of their many adventures.  It is with Ethan that Bailey finds how to be a good dog and becomes a well-loved family pet.  Unfortunately, Bailey doesn't live forever (they never do, darn it) and is reborn yet again.  (Stay with me sounds tiring, but it's really not).  Bailey approaches life the same way this time, but with caution.  His mood is increasingly pessimistic and frankly he's a bit tired of being reborn.  Can you blame him?  Each rebirth has him questioning his purpose even though down deep all he really wants is to be with Ethan again.  Bailey is resigned to be a good pet though and carries on with yet another new owner and new life, but he never stops yearning for Ethan and the life he had with him. 

It is obvious that animal lover's would really, really like this book, right?  So, what if you are not one of those?  You should read it anyway.  Once you can get over the fact that you are inside a dog's head and the book is being narrated by someone with four legs, you cannot help but be impressed with dog's take on human relationships.  You see (through a dog's eyes) the ugliness of hatred, marital stress, sickness, sorrow and aging from an entirely new perspective.  Not only do you see all of that, you see how even as a dog, Bailey uses his experiences (good and bad) to adapt to each new life.  That is something that we can all learn from and for me was really quite enlightening.

And if you ARE an animal lover (especially one partial to dogs) and decide to read this book, get your tissues ready.  Bailey is the perfect dog in each of the lives he lives. He is loyal.  He is funny.  He is protective.  He is loving.  I wanted nothing more than for him to find his purpose in life and be happy.  He was everything I wanted a dog to be, if that dog could process human thoughts and emotions, that is.  That made it all the more heart-breaking to read and watch as Bailey had to learn some hard life lessons at his own expense.  It did come with it's fair share of humor though, which did well to lighten up some of the more somber moments.  And the ending?  Well, let's just say it was a three-tissue ending.  In a good way.

Unfortunately, reading the end of this book won't be the only three-tissue ending in my near future.  Sadie and her aches and pains (and the other many things the vet says is wrong with her) are a constant reminder of that.  I just hope Sadie can take comfort in knowing that she has fulfilled her purpose in this life.  And for that, I am forever thankful.  Can somebody pass me a tissue?

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Carrie went to Italy and all I got were these stupid moving boxes or Fluke by Christopher Moore

Humpback whale, but the kind that doesn't eat people
I completely missed my last post's deadline.  In my defense I was without Internet with the exception of the free wifi available at the motel in Bristol, Virginia.  I chose not to write a post there because it was 11:30 at night when we pulled in (after being turned away at a hotel because we had a dog in our party, even though they advertised they were pet-friendly); I was tired from loading all our possessions on a moving truck earlier that day (well I didn't do any of the loading, but I was there cleaning the two tons of dog hair and various flotsam and jetsam that surface when moving any kind of children's toys) and then driving away from our home of two years.  When we got here to Maryland, we had a house to stay in but no possessions, so typing out a post while I had dinner with my family on the living room floor right before I went to sleep on the bedroom floor with either my two year old or my four year old was not that appealing.  But then last Thursday, my new love Maurice called to say he would be there with all of our stuff that morning.  He's a good man, Maurice; a shining example of Steve Miller Band lyrics.  Anyway, my point is that we've been in flux.  We are now slightly less fluxful.  So I will now stop whining and briefly tell you about yet another Christopher Moore book, and then I will go unpack some more (because those damn boxes multiply if you leave them unattended too long).

Fluke by Christopher Moore made me laugh in places, taught me a few things, and gave me pause in a couple of instances.  It was a good book.  Action nerd, Nate, studies the song of humpback whales.  He does this with money from a generous if eccentric philanthropist and with a slightly goth research assistant.  He's been hanging out in Hawaii studying the whale song for awhile, and he and his marine photographer friend Clay have got a good system going.  Then they hire a fake-Rasta surfer, Kona (ne Preston Applebaum of New Jersey), to help with the boats, and things starting getting weird.  The navy is doing something mysterious, Nate's research gets mostly destroyed, Clay's boat (his boat!) is sunk, a whale flukes Clay and Amy (goth research assistant) makes a rescue of mermaid quality.  And, oh yeah, Nate gets eaten by a humpback whale.  I know what you're thinking:  that's bound to give the whale indigestion.  Don't worry.  Turns out this whale is actually a ship....or an alien species of whale....or a combination of the two.  Regardless, it's not your average, run-of-the-mill 40 foot/40 ton endangered swimming creature.  Most notably it has "Bite Me!" written on its flukes and it can eat people without killing them.  I've seen several episodes of Octonauts and have been to Sea World at least a half-dozen times (making me a marine biologist), and I have yet to see such a creature.

It becomes apparent that Nate was chosen for faux death because he was getting too close to finding out about these faux whales.  There's a whole network of them swimming the world's waterways, and they're piloted by a hybrid species of "whaley boys", with crews of humans all of whom the rest of world believes to be mysteriously lost at sea.  Nate is taken to Gooville (whale ship central) and learns about the origins of the whale ships and their purpose.  In summation, the whale ships were created when humans started killing whales.  There's a lot more to the back story there, but I can see the box in the corner making eyes at the box by the desk and the faint sound of Barry White is in the air so that explanation will have to suffice.  If you like books that don't follow a prescribed formula and where the conflicts are original, pick up this book.  Once I get unpacked, I'll be reading the latest Toni Morrison novel and then I'll probably read another Christopher Moore book.  You have been warned.  Now I'm off to herd my children and take down some boxes.  Try not to be jealous.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

On June 6, I found out that Ray Bradbury had shuffled off this mortal coil.  It hit me hard that first day, and, by the end of the week, I cried.

(Here's a link to the article that made me cry.  I cried just now, reading it again.)

In some ways, that's such an odd reaction.  I didn't personally know Mr. Bradbury, I hadn't read one of his stories in years, and he had lived a full life by all accounts.  But he had given me so very much, and it hurt that he was gone.

Go in peace, Mr. Bradbury.
A million thanks for all the stories.
Ray Bradbury wrote the first science fiction that I ever intentionally read.  In truth, he's a wonderful entry into that type of book because his stories are more about the people than the science.  You don't need a B.S. in astrophysics for The Martian Chronicles to please you or to pique you. You simply need some curiosity and an open mind.  So he introduced me to the genre and because of his craftsmanship he kept me there.  He told amazing stories about how Martians react to Earth-made rocket ships, about how censorship can't stop people from learning, about how carnivals aren't always as they seem, and about how technology is no replacement for parenting.

Ahh.  That last one.  That's "The Veldt" from The Illustrated Man.  Good grief, that one gives me the heebie-jeebies.  (Just like "The Earth Men" from The Martian Chronicles.  Just like Fahrenheit 451. Just like Something Wicked This Way Comes.  Seriously, he could tell an amazing tale.)  In "The Veldt", George and Lydia Hadley have purchased the very best of homes, a Happy Life Home.  In Mr. Bradbury's words, this Happy Life Home "clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them".  This sounds like a very nice home, indeed, but the Hadleys discover that ceding some of their parental responsibilities to a house leads to a very not-nice outcome.  The house, you see, is programmed to give everyone what they want.  Parents, on the other hand, will occasionally tell their children "no".  Children with access to a powerful machine compelled to keep them happy have, by proxy, a lot more power than conscience.  In Mr. Bradbury's hands, this leads to chilling consequences.
What would I do if my tattoo moved?

"The Veldt" is the first of book of short stories from The Illustrated Man.  The stories are linked together through the basic premise of the Illustrated Man.  Seemingly like the tattooed men of carnivals, the Illustrated Man has ink that moves and predicts the future.  As a young boy watches the illustrations change, the short stories of The Illustrated Man unfold.  The stories are quick hits of discovery and fear and sadness and madness that surely will intrigue you.  For the Bradbury fans out there, I encourage you to re-read this one.  If you don't normally read science fiction or fantasy, this is still a great book to read.  Mr. Bradbury could be your entrance to a whole new world of books.  (Pun fully intended.) Pin It

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess

Do you follow The Bloggess?  Wait.  Don’t answer that aloud.  The woman has over 240,000 Twitter followers, and her blog averages over a half a million hits per month.  That means if you admit that you don’t follow The Bloggess you might end up feeling lonely and left out.  So as she says, “let’s pretend this never happened”.  Just get on over to Google and find her blog. (Um, or click on that handy link.)

Or you could do as I did and read her book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir.

I guffawed, I sniffled, I quoted.

Jenny Lawson,
The Bloggess

Seriously, this woman is hilarious.  And she breaks my heart.  And at one point, I realized that if I didn’t stop marking passages to quote directly in my review that I wouldn’t ACTUALLY be reviewing the book, but would, instead, merely be reading it to you. *

*Well, not really.  There’s no audio here.  But it’s LIKE I’m reading it to you because I’m pointing out all the parts that I would have read to you if we were in the same room.  Basically, it’s all the parts I read aloud to my sister—whether she wanted me to or not.

I should probably also point out that if you’re uncomfortable with the f-bomb, it’s possible that reading Jenny’s blog or book might cause you some discomfort.  Also, if you’re uncomfortable with irreverence or taxidermy OR an irreverence for taxidermy, it’s possible that Jenny’s writing isn’t for you.

Everyone else?  Get on over here or here.  Now.

Where else can you find passages like this?
“I countered that it didn’t seem “common” to have to protect your dead dog by going after a vulture with a machete.  My mom said, “Don’t be ridiculous.  Where would a vulture get a machete?”  Not because she was stupid, mind you . . .  simply because she didn’t see this emergency as important enough for me to start using sloppy sentence construction.”

Why are you even finishing this review?  This books contains a story about protecting a pet’s grave from scavengers that MADE ME LAUGH OUT LOUD.  Not, of course, as the grief or the loss, but because Jenny’s mother is so right; emergencies are not an excuse for poor communication.  Emergencies, by their very nature, make the case for proper speech.  Who wants to stop in the middle of a 911 call to clarify?  The clock is ticking during a crisis, after all.*

*And, of course, I’m a grammando—a grammar commando.  So it’s possible that quote is a matter of personal taste. Nah.  It’s damn funny.

Tucked in with chapters that made me laugh until I cried are some passages that just made me want to cry.  The Bloggess doesn’t hold much back so amidst the stories of her unconventional childhood and work history in HR are stories about her personal struggles with general anxiety disorder, OCD, and rheumatoid arthritis.  Thus, my comment about her breaking my heart.  She’s so witty and funny, and she touches (metaphorically, of course) so many people that it hurts ME to think about how much she hurts on an on-going basis.  But that little hurt makes the guffaws that much sweeter. 
Yes, that's a taxidermied mouse.
His name is Hamlet Von Schnitzel.

So read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.  It’s your best chance to read a book that is 
“intellectually challenging and chronologically surreal. Like if Memento was a book.  About dead dogs and vaginas and puppets made of squirrel corpses.”

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